Francis Edwin Elwell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
1890 photo of Elwell, right, and a model in his studio with his sculptural group Dickens and Little Nell
Dickens and Little Nell (1890), a statue of Charles Dickens in Clark Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Francis Edwin Elwell (also cited as Frank Edwin Elwell) (June 15, 1858 – January 23, 1922) was an American sculptor. From 1903 to 1905, he served as curator of ancient and modern sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.[1]


Elwell was born in Concord, Massachusetts, on June 15, 1858. He was a great-grandson of Ephraim Farrar, a Minuteman who fought at Concord Bridge on April 19, 1775; a grandson of Elisha Farrar of Concord's literary circle; and the son of John Wesley and Clara Farrar Elwell.[2]

Elwell was orphaned at age four and, according to various sources, was adopted by author Louisa May Alcott[3] or grew up under the care of his grandfather, Mr. Farrar.[4]

Elwell received his first instruction in art from May Alcott’s sister, Abigail May Alcott, who also taught noted sculptor Daniel Chester French.[5] He studied at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts,[4] then moved in 1881 to Paris to study at the École des Beaux-Arts and later privately with Alexandre Falguière.[4] Elwell later studied under French and shared a studio with him in New York City.[5]

According to a 1922 biographical sketch, he was the first "to model a statue in America that was erected in Europe": Death of Strength, installed at Edam, North Holland.[2]

Elwell’s works are numerous and varied. He exhibited at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the Salon de 1896 in Paris,[6] and later served as curator of ancient and modern sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Elwell is further represented in the Senate’s Vice Presidential Bust Collection by a marble bust of Garret A. Hobart.[5]

Elwell lived for a time in Orange, New Jersey, and then for many years lived and sculpted at 12 Hudson Place in Weehawken, New Jersey, overlooking the Hudson River.[2]

In 1901, the government of Rhode Island made him an honorary colonel of the Seventh Rhode Island Infantry. For several years, he was a lecturer at Harvard University.[2]

In 1905, Elwell clashed with the Met's acting director, George H. Story. In response, the museum's trustees closed the sculpture department, fired Elwell, and had him escorted from the museum by a policeman.[7]

Elwell moved to Darien, Connecticut, in 1920. He died there on January 23, 1922, while waiting for a streetcar. The city flew its flags at half-mast.[2]


Bonney Memorial (1898), Lowell Cemetery (Henry Bacon, architect).
Seated woman (1916), Lowell Cemetery.


  1. ^ Manuscripts: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries
  2. ^ a b c d e A Notable Advisory Board (1922). American Biography: A New Cyclopedia. 12. New York City: The American Historical Society. pp. 259–261. Retrieved 1 June 2012. 
  3. ^ Elwell bio at
  4. ^ a b c d Taft, Lorado (1969) [1903]. The History of American Sculpture. New York: Macmillan (reprinted by Ayer Company Publishing). ISBN 0-405-02228-X. 
  5. ^ a b c d Levi P. Morton bust in the U.S. Senate
  6. ^ Who's Who (1967). Who Was Who, 1929-1940. A.C. Black. ISBN 9780713601701. 
  7. ^ "Museum's Trustees Oust Curator Elwell," NYT, October 17, 1905.

External links[edit]